UCSF scientists have determined that adult stem cells in a specific region of the mouse brain have a built-in mechanism that allows the cells to participate in the repair and remodeling of damaged tissue in the region.
As the cells are also present in the human brain, the same capacity or potential may exist in humans, the researchers say. If they do, it is possible that the cells behavior could be enhanced to treat tissues damaged throughout the brain by disorders such as stroke and traumatic injury.
The study, reported in the December 15 issue of Cell, was led by Chay T. Kuo, MD, PhD, a UCSF postdoctoral fellow in the laboratory of senior investigator Yuh-Nung Jan, PhD.
Kuo is one of 16 UCSF CIRM Stem Cell Scholars up and coming young scientists funded by the California Institute for Regeneration Medicine, established by California voters in 2004 to allocate $3 billion over 10 years to support stem cell research.
"The results were very surprising," says Kuo. "Our results show that neural stem cells in mice have the ability to sense damage in their environment that leads to their subsequent proliferation to help restore local tissue integrity. If we can figure out how this happens, and determine that it occurs in human neural stem cells, we may be able to increase the effect and harness it for therapeutic use."
Understanding this proliferative capacity during environmental change is critical, he says, as adult neural stem cells in this region may sometimes proliferate out of control to form brain tumors. This possibility has been reported and is being explored by scientists in the UCSF Institute for Regeneration Medicine and UCSF Department of Neurological Surgery.
The scientists focused their study on postnatal neural stem cells that lie next to the lining of the brains lateral ventricles, or cavity, in a region known as the subventricular zone (SVZ). In 1999, the lab of study co-author Arturo Alvar
Contact: Jennifer O'Brien
University of California - San Francisco